Just hours after winning his fourth World Series bracelet, Kid Poker opens up
|There is something about the appearance of being comfortable that puts the fear into people|
I want to start off by saying it’s been a great World Series so far. If you look at the way it’s been organised, it’s top notch. The players are loving it! Jeffrey Pollack and the Player Advisory Council have to get a lot of credit.
We meet all the time, yelling at each other and hammering things out, discussing how to improve the WSOP. I was pissed off about last year’s structures – they sucked. So this year we fixed them.
And I’ve had a really good WSOP, although I’ve been pretty unlucky in a couple of late spots. The first event was the rebuy tournament, which is one I usually go deep in because I will spend money if I have to. I had seven rebuys and spent $9k total. I got really deep in that tournament, and was chip leader with about three tables to go, until I lost a pretty sick hand. I had 9?-10? and the player on the button just limped – if he’d raised everything would have changed. The small blind was able to limp and I checked.
The flop came 7-8-J with two clubs, so I got it all-in. My opponent had J-8 and he hit a Jack, which crushed me. What upset me more was that because I was doing so well in that tournament I didn’t play the $10k mixed game event. I had so many chips [in the rebuy event] when it started that I thought it would have been silly to enter it, but as it is I would’ve only missed three hours!
I also did pretty well in the Stud event, where I came 11th, but then I won the bracelet in the $2,000 Limit Hold’em tournament. I’ve now got four different bracelets and I’m the only player in the world who has one from the Binion and Behnen eras, and the Harrah’s era at the Horseshoe and the Rio.
Everything went according to plan. It felt like I was young again, except smarter, because it’s a game I grew up playing. When I got there, it felt really familiar, and even though I haven’t been at a final table for a bit, it was like, ‘Okay, I know what I’m doing,’ but you never say you know you’re going to win.
At one point I was doing really well and thought I had it, then I had Aces and Kings two hands later and lost both of them, so I went from being in a dominant position to middle of the pack. What helped is that I had an understanding of every single player at the table – how they were thinking and what they were planning on doing.
I was practising my golf swing at the table, which is something I do to kill time and be comfortable and relaxed. It may be intimidating to some degree being able to do that and eat some rice and tofu while I’m busting a guy, which I did at one point. There is something to be said about the appearance of being comfortable that does put the fear into the other people. They’re like, ‘Wow, he’s already won.’
The guy I ended up heads-up with eventually was the exact guy I wanted to be heads-up with, not because he’s a bad player, but heads-up I knew he would be a little bit on the careful side and easier to push around. When we started he made a comment and buried himself. He said something like, ‘Congratulations, you’re the better player and you have more chips,’ and I thought, ‘You’ve already defeated yourself,’ so I felt like he wasn’t even going to put up a fight and he didn’t really.
The very first hand of heads-up is what really put a stranglehold on it. I raised with 9?-10? and it came down A?-2?-5?, which is a pretty good flop for me! He check-raised me on the flop and I decided to just call and slow-play it. The turn was a King and he bet, I raised, and he re-raised, which scared me because he’s a very conservative player. Although I had a Ten-high flush, there’s still a Jack, Queen or King that could be out there and I didn’t want to overplay the hand and lose more than I needed to.
The river was a blank and I knew my hand was good, but his hand was huge – he had Aces and Kings with the K?. After winning that pot, I was up to 1.5m in chips and he only had about 400k, so from there my goal was to make sure I didn’t do anything sloppy, or double him up where I didn’t need to. My plan was just to nibble at him and never give him a chance to breathe, which is what happened. He never won a pot apart from when I folded once.
One of the first things I did when I won was to text Phil Ivey. He’s got bets with everyone, but we made a bet that if we both play in the same tournament during the WSOP it’s $200k if one of us goes on and wins it. It was kind of doubly a bad beat for him because winning this one meant I couldn’t play the $3,000 H.O.R.S.E. and he was doing really well in it! I’ve had a really good week as I also beat him for another $100k on the golf course when he bet against me on Patrik Antonius.
I play golf during the WSOP because it’s important to break up the monotony. It’s too long a period to just play poker and not have other things going on. The golf relaxes my mind and gets me thinking different things. It gets me out there physically getting fit instead of out drinking. Most of the time I’m either out playing golf or in a tournament, and sleeping the rest of the time.
I’m still looking forward to a whole bunch of tournaments, like the Stud 8-or-Better, the $50k H.O.R.S.E. and the Main Event. There’s a lot of events left that I feel really confident about, and with three cashes already there’s a decent chance I could tie or beat the record of eight.
On top of that, I’m mostly concerned with Player of the Year now, because Erick Lindgren’s having a great year and is currently first – I’m second. If you look at the leaderboard there’s a ton of great players so it’ll be an exciting finish and my goal is to keep racking up points and be the first ever two- time WSOP POY winner.